I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple weeks in relation to my Games as a Service and Quality of Life threads as well as several threads and posts from community members with suggestions on how to improve Gears 5.
I see some developers and publishers sourcing ideas for game design and improvements from the community itself.
Dana even stated in the recent developer stream that TC is “rebuilding the game” based on community feedback and cited this as one reason why they have been silent regarding updates and why it is taking so long to change even simple things like the still unfixed Horde user interface bug (misalignment between column headers and the columns in the select menu).
I empathize with Dana because his job is hard and this community has some extremely verbally abusive people. But The Coalition’s messaging of “we’ll make a note of it” or “we’ll pass it along to the team” for the past 3 months makes it seem like they are mining the community for ideas.
I consider this as a potential source of unpaid labor (not in any legal sense, but in an ethical sense). Ideally (in my opinion, anyway) the ethical approach would be to release a clearly labeled early access version or even spend a year gathering feedback from fans of the franchise before beginning development.
I see now that Games as a Service is just another name for early access, and the Gears community has been unlucky enough that the franchise now fully follows that development model (we saw signs of the transition in past games and in the industry itself but here I am, still surprised).
I don’t blame The Coalition. But I do place some of the blame toward Xbox Game Studios and Microsoft.
This is not something I entirely agree with. Because to me “Early Access” is more along the lines of “Unfinished,” such as Subnautica, a big Early-Access game that was popular for 2-4 years before it’s official release.
The problem with “Live-Service” is that it meets deadlines, but not benchmarks. A game on this model can come out on time, even if it seems early (I was skeptical when we heard Gears 5 was coming three months after E3), and then the Devs have to work against an unpolished game that’s being sold as a true AAA experience.
To me it’s less just “Live Service” = “Early Access” and that “Live Service” is a strange limbo between Live Demo and Full Release.
Look at Modern Warfare (2019), or Mortal Kombat 11. By most accounts those are both “Live Service” games but they do not have the same issues as Gears. I believe Live-Service could be a viable means of game production if a good game is built from the beginning, but executives use the ability of “fix it in patches” to boost sales and meet quarterly deadlines.
But those studios that take time, CDPR, Netherrealm, Ubisoft even stopped annual AC releases for better products (no matter your opinion, they are still objectively good).
I think Gears, whether it be TC or Xbox Studios at large doesn’t know what they’re doing and tried to get Gears 5 out before Series X and Halo Infinite when an extra 6 months or even a Year would’ve been greater to the game. But Gears 5 was the only real title they released at the end of 2019. The only thing they had. So it was semi-rushed at the last steps and then Rod abandoned the project altogether. I don’t really blame him now that I have Twitter.
I agree that it’s not as cut and dried as it would seem, but at the same time, it’s a gamble which live service games are built and supported well and which aren’t. That’s the crux of my dilemma. I don’t want to gamble my time. I don’t want to guess if the game I want to buy will be supported with regular updates and communication after 6 months.
As a side note, a lot of Live Service games receive extensive post-launch coverage from major gaming news outlets (Anthem, Destiny, FFIV, Fallout 76, Apex) but for some reason Gears 5 didn’t and still doesn’t. A head scratcher as to “why.” All I read are good reviews from launch month and then…nothing.
To an extent, yes. The annoying thing is that TC could have used the learning from GOW4 from the beginning.
We all know that GOW4 had issues and gradually improved with each patch and update. By the end it was an enjoyable game. But it felt like TC tried to reinvent too many things for GOW5.
I don’t want to get into the Hero system - I understand that TC wanted to surprise us with this and give us a new twist to how PVE is played and in some ways I appreciate the concept more nowadays, despite it being flawed in delivery.
I’ve been pondering on this idea… can a single player Campaign only game even be service based? It’s not that I want that to happen, it’s just something of a thought experiment that came to me while I was bored and had nothing better to do.
And I don’t think too well of the service approach as it currently seems to be - rush an unfinished game out that should still be in an early access/beta stage and then work on/fix it further. If it was in place for games that are already finished, it’s… well, better at least. I don’t know if they’re all like this but even accepting the premise of TC gathering feedback over several months until deciding on a change, they are awfully slow to come.
While I’m on the subject, I find it hard to tell whether the early release for Gears 5 was just TCs own decision making(not a great one if so), MS forcing an early release because they didn’t have much else to show for last year at the expense of the game, and/or for the whole Terminator licensing deal. The only thing I really can say that seems to be better, in retrospect, about this early release is TC getting told/learning earlier that their hero approach isn’t exactly the best and greatest out there. Which wouldn’t have been the case if the release had occurred at say, Op 3 or Op 4s, or even Op 5s, release date, though I’m not in a position to judge whether the feedback for the system would have differed at that point.
It may be down to popularity, notice how all of the examples you have given are multi-platform.
It also may be due to the actual content released in these updates. I can attest that updates for Apex are much larger than they are for Gears. New BP, a change in one or two BR maps, new weapons, new customisation options, events that actually feel like events, a new character that typically shakes up the meta, like Wattson did.
And, with those games, you typically feel as if a major content update could revitalise the game, if it was on a down. With Gears, well, the operations aren’t really built like that. I don’t feel that operation 4 will change that.
In a year’s time, yeah, Gears 5 will probably be a great game, like Gears 4 was towards the end of its lifecycle. But the majority of the population will have left by then. Especially with a new Halo game coming out this year, and with a new console.
I’ve also being saying that from the very beginning, that TC has been ignorant (intentionally or not) to what they learned during Gears of War 4’s lifespan.
I get the idea that they’d want to make the game “fresh” and try new ideas, but I speak for a lot of people when I say I’d rather they improved directly on Gears of War 4 as opposed to starting again with a, more or less, blank canvas.
Who knows? Maybe they know this and the upcoming changes will bring the game back to a more recognisable sequel.
What we’ve got with Gears 5 is correlation of bad development decisions, pushing out unfinished product, problems with communication at studio, pressure from publisher, and forcing Gears to be a GaaS product, where studio does not have experience with this kind of business model.
We, as community, also give another brick to it, if we suddenly stopped playing, publisher forces developer to do something to bring back players. And studio adds quickly new content without proper tests.
TC behaves just like drowning person, it will catch even a razor edge just to get out of water.
It seems to me that TC didn’t had any choice when it comes to business model of game. They have artistic freedom, can create what they want, but it’s in Microsoft will how game will earn money.
And mine is 30% M$ and 70% TC, as too many things were related to this GaaS development. I know in some way how game is developed, and choosing the way that game makes money is mostly publisher decision, but influences almost every part of game.
I said that because I have some experience working alongside software publishers. In my experience, it’s the “it flows downstream” rule that usually leads to problems with the product, not the software engineers’ work itself.
The metaphor I would use is Architect and construction worker. If the Architect tells the construction worker to build a house without windows, the construction worker will do it because he needs to earn a living.